Monday, July 23, 2007

What's Going On?

Bill Roggio has a roundup of the continued offensive against al-Qaeda and both Sunni and Shia tribal leaders in and around Taji have banded together to fight the Mahdi Army and al Qaeda, in the continuing Coalition effort to raise the grassroots against the terrorists. After reading that, you may want to listen to Glenn Reynolds interview Michael Yon. Also, here's the Iraqi National Security adviser arguing that things are getting "better".

Now suppose one were inclined to be skeptical that things were getting better and dismiss these reports as wishful thinking. What kinds of things would you need to see before you were willing to grant that "progress" might actually be happening? And would such indicators, if present, be sufficient to alter an inclination to withdraw from Iraq?

The question is more than hypothetical because if things were getting better the most important thing to ask is why they are getting better, if indeed they are. Then it would be possible to rationally assess whether a withdrawal or a drawdown or even an augmentation would have any effect, positive or otherwise. Some hypothesis of the machinery at work would go a long way towards weighing whether Option A or Option B were best. Of course, the pitfall is that because the situation is dynamic, it may be the case that the key factors for success will change in the future.

Nothing follows.

22 Comments:

Blogger Pangloss said...

Skeptics are not the problem. The problem is the peacemongers who are religiously tied to pacifism as the ultimate good, and the morally flexible politicians and media of questionable virtue who bend in the wind that whips out from the tastemakers' incessant blah blah blah. These lot are not susceptible to facts. They cherry pick politically correct facts to match their predetermined answer, which will not change.

Where can we find this legendary creature, the antiwar partisan who will follow the facts to a different position?

7/23/2007 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

I wonder how long the MSM can keep up the farce? Can they keep it going till the 2008 elections?

I think this blog is one of the few voices on Iraq that is at least somewhat rational.

America is being played by Al-Qaeda and a liberal press. Al-Qaeda is trying to survive, and the liberal press wants a Democrat President at all costs.

Remember how Al-Qaeda got the Democrats elected last year? (Al-Qaeda's #2 man sent the video reminding the Dems in Dec 2006) I have no doubt that Al-Qaeda is still working hard at it.

What is becoming funny to me is that we think "attacking" the US requires bombs, planes and bullets.

7/23/2007 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

The problem is that many of the remaining War supporters see progress as only important in the military area, and then only against the 4-6,000 Foreign fighters.

What is dooming the US is not our playing the "terrahist evildoer whack-a-mole" game, or squandering 120 billion a year to whack a few thousand on the delivery end of the radical Muslim supply line..

It is the political problem we created by allowing the election of a radical Shiite element that dominates gov't and just went on their 3 1/2 week long summer vacation - which coupled with their other vacations - has the Iraq Federal Shiite Gov't in session less than 150 days a year. And then only half show up, and those that do are more interested in finagling more money out of the dumb infidel than in resolving Iraq's great political issues over the last 3 years.

THAT, not the ability of our "high tech special OPS heroes" kicking ass!!!, is the reason why the Bush-Sharansky democracy idealists have gotten us in so much trouble...

7/23/2007 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

1% of the US GDP is $130 billion, which is a little more than what we spend per year in Iraq. I point that out to inject a little reality into the liberal phrase "squander".

Facts are meaningless to people who live on non-think. But for the intelligent folks, Iraq is a very small output for the US.

7/23/2007 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

I see no reason to believe that anything resembling facts will have any effect on the buffoons in Washington.

The only good news is that the President is steadfast, and Pinky Reid has absolutely no leadership abilities at all. Almost everything he does, like that all-night session last week, pisses off the Republicans and makes it unlikely that they will abandon the President.

Sometimes you have to hope for a really stupid opponent.

7/23/2007 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger Fmg said...

"just went on their 3 1/2 week long summer vacation" ... It's so easy to forget that temps in Baghdad exceed 120 in the summer and in a region traditionally without A/C, this means that things, traditionally, grind to a halt in the summer. Maybe they have A/C now, but... Just something to keep in mind.

BTW, I don't think it's a fair comparison to the GI's who have to slug it out in the same environment.

7/24/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger amr said...

Some complain about the Iraqi legislature taking off a number of weeks this summer without completing the political issues we expect them to finalize. Yet many of those very people who complain are taking 5 weeks off without passing the defense budget which contains a raise for those who fight to protect their ability to go home this summer. Such hypocrisy.

7/24/2007 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger cactus said...

As a skeptic, I'll tell you what it takes for me. Consider the surge. In mid-January, we were told the surge was a mix of military and political strategy, and we would start seeing results in July or August, and there'd be a report in September.

A month or two goes by, and... July or August is too soon. Make that later in the year.

A few more months go by... in fact, its now July, and we're talking another year.

So here's what it takes... when the first prediction that gets made six months out of something getting better actually comes to pass, with no moving goalposts, well, I'll believe. Until then, its more "turning corners" and "last throes" like the rest of them from the same folks who have been telling us about "turning corners" and "last throes" for four years.

7/24/2007 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Cactus,
"we would start seeing results in July or August"


Not sure what you are trying to say. Clearly we are seeing positive results, and have been for several weeks. Have things not progressed enough for yet, because clearly they have progressed.

7/24/2007 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

1% of the US GDP is $130 billion, which is a little more than what we spend per year in Iraq. I point that out to inject a little reality into the liberal phrase "squander".

It is 1/3rd of the Federal deficit. It is 700 billion towards our culative debt.

It is lost opportunity. If 120 billion a year is so trivial, then why not spend ANOTHER 120 billion to end medical bankruptcies and extend heath care coverage to the working poor? Or spend it to eliminate the 95,000 deaths from "medical misadventures" in America - the developed world's highest rate by far?

Or on educating our kids to jobs and careers where they can compete and have roughly the standard of living of recent American generations despite the globalization threat?

If a 120 billion is just chump change and deficits don't matter to the "New Republicans" why not spend more on other things?

7/24/2007 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

amr said...
Some complain about the Iraqi legislature taking off a number of weeks this summer without completing the political issues we expect them to finalize. Yet many of those very people who complain are taking 5 weeks off without passing the defense budget which contains a raise for those who fight to protect their ability to go home this summer. Such hypocrisy.


AMR, you fail to discern between taking a vacation in a civil war when the only troops standing between you in the Green Zone with your fellow noble purple fingers are telling you to govern or they will leave soon - and America.

Apples and oranges, and you must be one of the last that still believes with Bush that the noble Iraqis are just like us, want the same things, so their long vacations and refusal to get things done as we Americans die for their dithering is morally equivalent to Senator John Cornyn taking his grandkids to Disneyworld for a couple weeks..

7/24/2007 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger cactus said...

exelhodrvr1,

"Clearly we are seeing positive results, and have been for several weeks."

See, that to me is a question. We've had announcements of "all is well" before, and then a few weeks later, its turned out to be bs.

Let's see the number of atacks by insurgents drop, if only to July and August of 2006 levels. Asking it to drop to July and August of 2005 or 2004 levels, I realize, is one heck of a lot.

Other things it would be nice to see...

Let's see the number of car bombs drop. Let's stop hearing about bodies turning up every day with drill holes in their elbows and knees.

Let's see the Iraqis take over their own security. Remember... Petraeus was in charge of training them several years ago. And also remember... it took less time to train a few million men to fight and beat the Germans and Japanese than its taking to train the Iraqis to play second banana to US forces. Something is seriously wrong here.

Let's see Iraqi doctors stop fleeing the country.

Anyway, let's see some numbers. And let's sit on those numbers for a bit, to make sure they're not illusory.

7/24/2007 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Cactus,
That is a very reasonable request. At least part of the problem is that most of the information that we see in the general media re "body counts", car bombs, etc. is from sources that are pretty unreliable. Would you accept the figures from the military? (Which are probably the most accurate.)

7/24/2007 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

Cedarford wrote
"If a 120 billion is just chump change and deficits don't matter to the "New Republicans" why not spend more on other things?"

Cedarford, try to focus please. You need to sort out different issues - not try to use them against each other. Somehow I remember this being a very bad debate technique and a quick way to an "F" in a logic class.

Iraq is important and you've no credible data to the contrary.

Medical care is important, but it has nothing to do with Iraq. After all, health-care was an issue before Iraq, and it is still an issue now even with a Democrat-controlled Congress. Maybe you should send a note to Harry Reid and remind him.

Our Government has to address many parallel issues and one issue is Iraq. I'm sorry that you are deluded by the MSM into believing that Iraq is the ONLY issue, or that Iraq is another Vietnam, or that we'd have universal health care if it weren't for Iraq, etc.

But the fact remain: based on cost, Iraq consumes a small portion of this nation's output.

7/24/2007 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Strengthening of the Iraqi government as an effective independent operation. There are a set benchmarks already in existance, at a bare minimum these need to be met.

7/24/2007 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Fen said...

cactus: Consider the surge. In mid-January, we were told the surge was a mix of military and political strategy, and we would start seeing results in July or August, and there'd be a report in September. A month or two goes by, and... July or August is too soon. Make that later in the year.

I think you've been misinformed. Petraeus didn't take command until mid-February, and forces for the surge were not in place until June. The surge "offically" started on June 15th, and is already showing good results.

7/24/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger cactus said...

exhelodrvr1,

Unfortunately, body counts by the US military are not reliable. Recall... not long ago in an attempt to show body counts were falling, they took car bomb deaths out of the series after a certain date and left it in before.

I look at the Brookings index. Its not that great, but its what's out there. But one doesn't need hard nubmers to conclude things are not getting better - one merely has to observe human behavior.

I also note that its been a very long time since we've seen a Western VIP or reporters walk the streets outside the Green Zone without a heck of a lot protection. And that includes most of the folks who tell us things are getting better.

I also note... its been four years, and planes landing in Baghdad still fly into the cities using patterns intended to reduce the odds of them being shot down. I can't imagine that statement can be made of any other capital city in the world right now, and hasn't been true of any other capital city in the world for more than a week at a time any point in the last fifteen years.

7/24/2007 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger cactus said...

fen,

Back in April, Petraeus himself said this:

"again, remember we're in very early days on this. We're only about two months into the surge. We won't have all the forces on the ground until mid-June and I pointed that out to them, and noted that Ambassador Crocker and I would be doing an assessment in early September and provide that to our respective bosses at that time. "

(note: DoD website)

I can go back and find quotes from administration officials that we were going to start results by July or August and that the surge was beginning at the end of January.

The idea that the surge officially started on June 15th is an example of the moving goalposts I mentioned.

7/24/2007 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger ex-democrat said...

cactus - there is a world of difference between being a skeptic (as you describe yourself) and being impervious to logic (as your comments reveal you to be).
As a start, none of the statements in your last comment are contradictory.
The goalposts are not moving - your description of them is.

7/24/2007 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger amr said...

Cedarford:

Most believe that both Iraq and the US are at war, like it or not. When at war one party should not be having a hissy fit because they didn’t get their way and slow down the passing of the defense budget. My son is in Iraq and I’m sure hearing that congress is holding up the budget, which includes the purchase of more IED/EFP resistant vehicles, and his pay raise will be good for his and his fellow soldier’s morale. The Iraqis also want to check with their constituents/followers as does congress and escape the heat. In that they are not apples and orange comparisons. I am condemning those in our congress who expect one thing of the Iraqis and another for themselves, whether the danger in the war is in your back yard to thousands of miles away. I wish the Iraqi legislature would stay in session, but since they are marked people having been attacked in the international zone, when at home and have seen family members killed, they might just need a break. What is our congress’s excuse, other than tradition? Air conditioning made that tradition much less than a necessity.
I did notice your contempt for Iraqis in your word usage. Could you be one of those Americans who doesn’t believe that brown people deserve the freedoms we have; they just can’t hack it. I remember that from Americans during the Vietnam War and millions died because of that attitude in our country. The Vietnamese were just so different, it was said I don’t want a repeat performance and neither does my son. So there are at least three Americans who believe that the Iraqis want better than they have had and that might just be what freedoms that Americans have.

7/25/2007 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Fen said...

cactus, from your own quote:

" We won't have all the forces on the ground until mid-June"

7/25/2007 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger cactus said...

ex-democrat and fen,

My grandfather toured Europe from the driver's seat of Sherman tank from mid 1944 to mid 1945. He landed in Normandy a couple days days after D-Day... there was only so much beachfront and ship-space and infantry was the bulk of the first wave for obvious reasons. For the next month or so, the forces on the ground fought to break out of the small coastal area where they had landed, and weeks went by before anything other than the lead elements had arrived.

Now D-Day was June 6... but Operation Overlord wasn't officially over until August 19. Operation Neptune, the invasion itself, wasn't pronounced over until June 30. Now, would you say the invasion of Normandy occured on June 6, June 30, or August 19, or some other date? Note that in April, Petraeus himself was pointing toward the start of the surge as, well, the start of the surge, and he pinpointed the date for that as being 2 months before April.

amr,

Unfortunately, while our leaders have talked about there being a war, there has been no corresponding action. Remember, the sacrifice GW asked us to make was... to go shopping. There's been no encouraging people to sign up for the war, much less a draft.

We've had tax cuts and a rising debt to pay for the war - in other words, put it on the credit card. No pain for anyone except the military families and the Iraqis.

Under the circumstances, its not hard to understand that most Americans don't believe this is a war.

7/25/2007 09:11:00 AM  

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